Starting pitching coming around for Cards
ST. LOUIS – Jake Westbrook’s first complete game in more than two years Wednesday night did more than give the Cardinals a much needed win. It continued a trend of solid starting pitching that they hope is a sign of things to come.
Westbrook allowed just one unearned run on five hits and a walk, working through the Detroit Tigers lineup with relative ease in a 3-1 Cardinals win. He retired 16 of the past 18 batters he faced and needed more than 13 pitches in an inning just three times, finishing with his 14th career complete game but first since May 16, 2010.
“It was good to get out there and finish what I started,” Westbrook told Jim Hayes of FOX Sports Midwest. “It’s always good to do that. That’s what I set out to every time out, its just a matter of keeping the pitch count down, making quick outs and having good innings and I was able to do that tonight.
“That’s kind of where I’ve been trying to get back to, getting down in the zone and getting balls hit on the ground an getting quick outs. The last two or three starts have been pretty good and now its just a matter of being consistent and keep it going.”
Consistent is exactly what the Cardinals starting staff has been the past two weeks. While the offense has been stuck in a rare slump that doesn’t figure to last much longer, the starting staff has more than done their part.
In 12 starts since June 7, Cardinals starters are 5-4 with a 2.56 ERA and have averaged more than 6 1/3 innings per start. Only once, Lance Lynn’s five earned run outing on Tuesday, have they allowed more than three earned runs.
The Cardinals burst out of the gates in April thanks in large part to a 2.61 ERA from their pitching staff, good for the second best ERA behind only the Washington Nationals. They were 20-11 on May 10 and held a nice lead in the National League Central.
But the wheels have been falling off ever since, due in large part to a rough May on the mound. The Cardinals allowed more than two runs more per game in May, finishing among the worst in baseball with a 4.72 ERA during the month.
It’s been a little better overall in June at 4.27, but that number has come way down the past two weeks because of the resurgence of their starting staff. With Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia on the disabled list, the starting staff has had to pick up the slack. And of late, they’ve done just that.
Kyle Lohse has a 1.74 ERA in his past three starts, allowing just four earned runs in 20 2/3 innings. And the right-hander, who has allowed just 15 hits during the span, will look to help the Cardinals win the series when he starts Thursday afternoon in Detroit.
Westbrook has a 2.57 ERA in his past three starts, giving up three earned runs in six innings in each of his past two starts prior to Wednesday’s gem. He had given up at least five earned runs in each of his three previous starts.
After allowing seven earned runs on June 1 in New York, Adam Wainwright has been much better in his past three starts as well. Wainwright, pitching his first season since missing all of 2011 with Tommy John surgery, has allowed six earned runs in 19 2/3 innings over his past three outings, good for a 2.75 ERA.
Lynn suffered a hiccup on Tuesday night when he allowed five earned runs in just five innings of work. He’s got a 3.30 ERA in his past five starts, allowing two earned runs or less in each of his previous four starts prior to Tuesday.
Rookie Joe Kelly has been strong replacement for the injured Jaime Garcia. In his two starts since being promoted from Triple-A, Kelly has allowed just three earned runs in 9 1/3 innings, good for a 2.89 ERA.
The Cardinals enter Thursday’s series finale trailing the Cincinnati Reds by 3.5 games in the National League Central. After getting off to a fast start, the Cardinals are just 15-23 since May 10.
But their struggles the past two weeks haven’t been because of the starting pitching. And if the starters continue on their current roll, the Cardinals figure to start winning a lot more games.